Now in its eighth year, the Williamsburg Spelling Bee has gained a reputation as the "Hipster Spelling Bee" (thanks to the ever-hip denizens of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn). But really, it's just an excuse for some good old-fashioned spellin' fun in a convivial crowd. On Monday night, Robert Moy was crowned the winner of this year's Bee, and the Visual Thesaurus was happy to be a sponsor for the final event.
Since we launched our own online spelling bee at the VT, we've been diving deeper into the world of competitive spelling. There's lots of focus every year on the Scripps National Spelling Bee for middle-school students, but adults like to get in on the spelling action too. Last month the VT helped out another grown-up spelling bee, a charity event for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses featuring various literary luminaries. For the CLMP Bee the Visual Thesaurus created the word list used to quiz contestants, and for the Williamsburg Bee we provided complimentary subscriptions to the VT for all eight finalists.
The Williamsburg Bee is orchestrated and co-hosted by comedian and writer Jennifer Dziura, aka JenIsFamous. Jen was kind enough to give a shout-out to the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee, which she said was great online practice for real-life spelling bees. We couldn't agree more!
I have a feeling that this year's winner, Robert Moy, would shoot up to an 800 score on the VT Bee in short order. He won by going twelve for twelve in the final round, setting a Williamsburg Bee record in the process. That's some impressive orthographic perspicacity.
You can read more coverage on the Williamsburg Bee blog and on Gothamist. If you're in the New York area and interested in joining in on the fun, you'll have to wait till next summer for the kickoff of the ninth season. But in the meantime, check out the New York City Spelling Bee, "a glamorous offshoot of the Williamsburg Spelling Bee" held on the third Saturday of every month. (Looks like Mr. Moy has won that a couple of times too!)
Ben Zimmer is executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. He is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column here, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society.Click here to read other articles by Ben Zimmer